I have to admit, I was having my doubts about Bates Motel, but “Ocean View” really turned things around. The town’s tangled web of fear and intimidation is starting to have its trickled-down repercussions for our main characters, and is setting up some interesting twists. One of the biggest questions was answered, too: can we believe what Norman sees? After the hallucination about his mother that lead him to Shelby’s hose, it’s been confusing whether what Norman sees is real or not. But in “Ocean View” it seems that, thanks to some corroboration from other characters, unless otherwise notified, Norman’s experiences are real. Which, in one case, is fairly terrifying. Hit the jump for why you should always ask yourself, “if I had an Asian sex slave, where would I keep her?”
Before I get in to everything else, I want to comment on Bates‘ incorporation of technology. In a show that feels so retro, the bursts of tech (cell phones, laptops) almost feels disjointed. But whereas so many series ignore the importance and pervasiveness of technology, I’m glad to see Bates Motel using it so seamlessly. Norman texts with Bradley in a familiar, teenage way, later mistaking her voicemail for her real voice (I loved that touch, how many of us have done that?) He then anxiously checks his phone all day, waiting to hear from her. Norma is shown checking out their hotel’s website, a nod to her own, perhaps unexpected, tech savvy. Emma also mentions to Norman when discussing Bradley that if she hasn’t changed her relationship status [on Facebook], then their encounter was little more than a hook-up.
“Ocean View” was an episode that belonged almost exclusively to the teenagers of the show, and I think Bates Motel does a good job of making kids seem like kids. I have no problem with the aging-up of dialogue for teenagers of most series — after all, if they talked like they normally do it would drive most of us a little crazy — but Bates manages to keep the awkwardness and uncertainty and weirdness without making it unbearable.
What’s interesting about Bates is that as great as Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore are as Norma and Norman, our main protagonists, I’ve been really pleased with the quality of the supporting characters. Though Emma plays a more cliched role as the “Velma” harboring the crush on the guy attracted to “Daphne,” she still manages to be interesting and “quirky” without it feeling like the writers are trying too hard. Dylan though is the real diamond in the rough, and his story is one that has unexpectedly gained a lot of traction. Both Emma and Dylan hold the keys to a story outside of Norma and Norman’s suffocating relationship — with Emma comes the subplot about the Chinese girl, and Dylan is mixed up with the seedy underbelly of White Pine Bay, all of which connects back to the Summers murder. One of the things the show does best is self-reference — White Pine Bay is a small community and everyone is involved in something.
Bates Motel lives off an uneasy feeling caused by fear and manipulation, much of it stemming from Norma. We had the fallout this week from another “Norma goes and hangs out with Bradley while something horrible happens to Norma” moment, which she makes him pay for with guilt and drama. But was Shelby sincere in saying how he loved Norma? Or is it all, as Norman suggests, just so he has leverage over her (since he even going so far as to destroy the evidence against her). It’s a tricky situation now that Norma discovers he was in a sex slave business with the despicable Summers. They both have something huge over the other one — Shelby knows she killed Summers (even though she will never admit to it), and now she knows about his evil deeds.
This week also showed a weakening (despite Norman’s protestations) of the bond between Norma and Norman (he even went so far as to say that she scared him). Norma suspects it’s Emma that Norman has been hooking up with, though it’s really Bradley that’s helping to dilute a certain about of sexual jealousy on his part (though there’s still some there). But it is Dylan, just as Norma fears, who is really driving the wedge between the two, as well he should. Dylan, a good guy who gets involved in (and is clearly capable of doing) very bad things is our standard for normalcy on this show. Welcome to Bates Motel!
The drama on all sides is reaching at fever pitch, but there’s still so much to explore (about how the town works, particularly in regards to Ethan and the business that he and Dylan are helping to protect), leaving me really hopefully about weeks to come with this show. Bates Motel is a strange place to spend some time, but it has a hypnotic pull.
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I’m interested to see what the fallout will be from Dylan’s actions against the junkie who shot Ethan. I’m hoping Ethan isn’t dead, because he’s one of the few people who seems capable of giving answers.
— I laughed out loud at Norman sneaking some candy at the lawyer’s office, and then you just see him chewing furiously in the background.
— Sooo is the hotel open for business, or what?
— Loved that Norma asked the exact question I had about that lawyer right off the bat, “just how old are you, exactly?”
— “Welcome to the doghouse” – Dylan. Their brother bonding was sweet.
— Emma is a badass.
— “I love you, you idiot” – Shelby.